Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Fifth Generation

Currently reading Memoirs of the Beijing Film Academy: the Genesis of China's Fifth Generation by Zhen Ni (translated by Chris Berry). It tells the story of the 'class of 1982', the first batch of young film-makers to be able to enroll in the Film Academy after the Cultural Revolution, and covers the likes of Chen Kaige, Zhang Yimou, Tian Zhuangzhuang and others. Fascinating stuff. They were young - well Zhang was older than the others (interesting to read how they bent the rules to admit him) - and idealistic, competitive but often working together. Zhang for example was the cinematographer for the Chen-directed Yellow Earth (1984), the first major film to come from the group, before he went on to direct films himself.  

But the best place to start is Simon Fowler's 101 Essential Chinese Movies, published just last year. He's a Brit, living in Beijing since 2006, and he's done an absolutely fantastic job on condensing a century of Chinese film history into 200 pages. Can't say I'll ever see them all, but Liz and I are steadily working our way through those that are available with English subtitles on Friday movie-sofa nights...  

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